Actions to prevent covid will help our stretched NHS and public services

This week I was asked how we in the city can support our local NHS. The question came as covid-19 admissions to our city’s hospitals have risen since the end of the last lockdown.

The new, much more contagious strain of the virus has seen the number of cases balloon locally.

Hospital inpatients with covid-19 now surpass those seen at the start of the pandemic last March, while frontline workers are under colossal pressure.

Sadly, this week the UK also saw the two deadliest days of the pandemic yet – with a stark warning from Public Health England that large numbers of covid-19 related deaths will continue for some time.

So in response to the query, I am clear– the best way we can support our NHS is to do everything possible to keep infection rates low and protect the most vulnerable.

The magnitude of the problem now means we must all play our part– avoiding congregating on the seafront and in parks, keeping a safe distance, washing our hands and most importantly of all: staying at home and self-isolating if we show symptoms.

Our actions really can make a difference. Over two weeks into the lockdown and our city’s high covid-19 infection rates are showing some signs of slowing.

It’s vital we keep up these efforts as sadly, the covid-19 virus can take some days to show it is worsening – meaning that while we drive down infection rates now, people already infected will still need hospital beds in the future.

The declaration of a major incident two few weeks ago means that capacity is being built in to ensure people receive help.

The reality of this new variant of covid-19 also means that more and more frontline staff are experiencing symptoms and having to self-isolate – putting additional strain on the services society needs the most.

On top of the huge pressures facing the NHS, healthcare staff across Sussex are also working hard to vaccinate people against covid-19.

While we begin to hear good news of the many people locally receiving their first dose, there is no need to contact the NHS to be vaccinated as they will be in touch when it is your turn.

It’s also important we don’t lose sight of the challenges – the vaccine alone will not prevent transmission and we need to stick to the guidance as new infections are still a reality.

While the NHS makes its way through their priority list, preventing infection means that those eligible can be healthy and well enough to receive their vaccination when the time comes.

Picture by David McHugh / Brighton Pictures

Welcome though the vaccine is, scientists confirm it will only be effective alongside current guidance and well-funded test, trace, and isolate support.

Yet throughout this pandemic we have had to warn government ministers that communities need more effective help.

From failures to get test and trace up and running effectively, to the botched handling of the opening of schools, local communities have been left to deal with one u-turn after another.

This week we were dealt another blow as ministers moved to prevent nurseries closed on safety grounds during the pandemic from accessing their full funding.

At a time of national lockdown, it is outrageous that nurseries taking steps to stay financially viable and protect staff are being punished for doing so.

We continue to push the government to recognise the importance of public services – from better support for those in need of adult social care to help for schools.

This week we are asking ministers to address the failings of the business grants scheme for the estimated three million workers excluded from any kind of support.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty

The pandemic has pushed the poorest households to the edge and thrown thousands of young people into unemployment. Yet this week Conservative government ministers refused to retain a £20 uplift to the “universal credit” welfare benefit, plunging half a million more people into poverty and proving they still don’t understand how this virus is harming communities.

Locally the council continues to reach out to those who are facing incredibly hard times. Our community hub continues to help people accessing food, mental health support or assistance with bills.

We are refreshing the signs in the city that reinforce the seriousness of social distancing.

Through regular meetings with all of our emergency services, city leaders and the NHS, we continue to get clarity and seek assurances over plans to manage the pandemic locally.

My thoughts go out to everyone working to save lives, to all working to support our communities and to all of those who are sadly grieving.

Together I know we can still prevent new infections and further tragic loss of life.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is the Green leader of Brighton and Hove City Council.

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